Zac Guildford and Julian Savea were the All Blacks' preferred wingers in June.
Two months on, there was a very different look to Steve Hansen's outside backs in Sydney last night.
In nine tests, Hosea Gear admits he has never produced his best. There is a fire burning within.
Last night he was handed the chance to make an irresistible impression alongside former Hurricanes team-mate Cory Jane.
Produce the goods and the pair could nail their spots for the remainder of the Rugby Championship. “It's a massive opportunity for me to start and achieve a few personal goals,” Gear said.
“I probably haven't taken the opportunities when they've come up. I didn't have many and at this level you don't get given many. The first game is usually one of the more important to play well in. There's a lot of pressure in my spot because there's a number of other guys pushing to be here.”
Gear's last outing for the All Blacks, after he was a late call-up to the squad, featured a bulldozing try against Ireland in Hamilton. The Highlanders recruit savagely surged through defenders.
That delivered a statement to Hansen, who omitted Guildford and selected Gear over Savea for the opening Bledisloe Cup test. Ben Smith's versatility earned him a spot on the bench.
Gear's problematic perception has been derived from a lack of industry. At times, throughout his career, the 28-year-old has been guilty of coasting out on the left wing, rather than chasing the action.
His attacking power has never been questioned; he is one of the best finishers in the world. Gear seems to have rectified those lazy tendencies with maturity.
“It's always been about work-rate for me,” Gear said of his constant improvements. “In terms of where the game is headed, you really want your wingers to be active now.”
Hansen's back three were complimentary contrasts last night. Jane's inclusion, after he missed the Ireland series with an ankle injury, was a major boost.
Pint-sized Jane has become arguably the most complete wing on the planet. Despite his appearance and friendly cheek, Jane invariably beats his opposite one-on-one with a lethal fend and his days at fullback ensure he is strong in defence, safe under the high ball.
“We all have our different abilities. If we can bring that all together hopefully we can have a bit of fun,” Gear said.
“I'm looking forward to linking up with him [Jane] and getting used to that combination. We talk a lot out on the field.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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